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I can win against the young guys, vows Padraig Harrington

 

By Brian Keogh

Pádraig Harrington believes more glory days lie ahead despite losing a nerve-tingling back-nine battle with Italy's Andrea Pavan for the Real Czech Masters in Prague.

Three ahead with nine holes to go, the Dubliner (46) had to settle for the 33rd runner-up finish of his 23-year career when he came home in level-par to the Italian's blistering five-under 31 to finish two shots behind on 20-under par.

"I don't feel I have an issue playing against these younger guys, I feel I can certainly keep up with them, and I have some good things in my own game," Harrington said after fading on the back nine to card a 69 to Pavan's five-under 67.

"Even from a week like this, you learn more when you get in contention. I'm seeing things about my game that I can improve and work on.

"I'm in a nice place, I just have to keep doing the good stuff, and hopefully there'll be more tournaments like this ahead."

Tied for the overnight lead with Pavan on 17-under, Harrington was seeking his 16th European Tour win, his 32nd worldwide and the perfect early present ahead of his 47th birthday on Friday.

But while he birdied the first, sixth and ninth to turn in three-under 33 and lead by three from the 29-year-old, his recent lack of form caught up with him and Pavan streaked past him, rattling in five birdies, including three in his last five holes to claim his maiden European Tour title by two strokes on 22-under par.

"It was a good contest, no doubt about it," said Harrington after his first top-10 finish for nearly 10 months. "I obviously don't feel like I lost it, Andrea won it for sure.

"He played great coming home and holed the decisive putts. I get my fair share of wins, but it wasn't my day today.

"To shoot 20-under par on any golf course, you've got to put some numbers together, so I'm happy with that, Andrea just finished really well.

"He played lovely golf all day, to be honest, and made those birdies. It's a pity, but I'll settle for this most weeks.

"I'll give myself plenty of chances to win, and I know it's a numbers game, some weeks it will be my turn for the putts to drop and the right shots at the right time."

Pavan, whose wife Audra is expecting the birth of the couple's second child, a baby girl, on Wednesday, was suitably chuffed with his win.

"It's amazing, it's massive," he said. "I've won four times on the Challenge Tour, but it was a long time ago.

"The putt on 16 was massive - it could have easily gone both ways. Padraig was ahead of me most of the day, but after I got ahead, I stayed aggressive."

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